Contra Backers Will Turn To Private Sector For Money
MIAMI (AP) _ Contra supporters said they would turn to the public and private groups for funds to keep alive the rebel effort to topple Nicaragua’s Sandinista government.
Although Roberto Arguello, president of the Nicaraguan American Bankers Association, has been highly critical of the Contra directorate, he said the south Florida exile community could be tapped to support the men in the field.
″If everyone gave just one dollar a week, we could raise $5 million a year just out of Miami,″ said Arguello, who estimates the number of exiles at 90,000.
The rejection by Congress on President Reagan’s aid request for the Contras could prove beneficial in the long run, said Arguello.
″It will create a genuinely Nicaraguan movement,″ he said, whereas before the aid cutoff, ″Washington would get whatever it wants.″
The Contra directors refused to discuss money matters after the 219-211 House vote Wednesday, but some supporters met Thursday to discuss a fund drive.
″We have taken this kind of blow before and we have survived, and we are going to survive again,″ said rebel leader Adolfo Calero.
″We will make a 1,000 percent effort to raise money,″ said Miami businessman Carlos Perez, who heads the pro-Contra group Concerned Citizens for Democracy. ″We will do everything that is legal to provide help.″
Alvaro Rizo, whose Nicaraguan-American National Foundation in Washington has helped exiles in the past, said he met with some of his board members Thursday and expected to have a strategy within a few days.
″I hope we can help them,″ said Rizo, ″but I cannot say that we are going to replace the aid.″
Former Tennessee congressman Dan Kuykendall’s Gulf and Caribbean Foundation has been running a pro-Contra publicity campaign, and he said Thursday he will redouble his efforts in the next 90 to 120 days.
″But frankly it’s been very difficult to raise money because of Irangate,″ he said. ″People have been scared off.″
Marta Sacasa, the Contra’s spokeswoman in Miami, said she is worried that potential donors will close their purses, taking their lead from the Congress.
Congressional Democrats say they may be willing to give some humanitarian aid to the Nicaraguan rebels, but have drawn the line at military aid. The Contras’ Washington fund-raising consultant, David Lane, estimates that food for the 15,000 rebel troops will cost about $1.3 million a month.
Meanwhile, others, such as retired Maj. Gen. John K. Singlaub, say they will go to private citizens for help.
″There are millions who feel strongly that we cannot in our own national security interests allow the Soviets to establish the bases that they are developing now in Nicaragua,″ said Singlaub, adding that his United States Council for World Freedom would try to raise money.